2015 PNLA Conference Report

Rebecca Moorman, Head of Technical Services at the UAA/APU Consortium Library, recently attended the 2015 Pacific Northwest Library Association Conference in Vancouver, WA. The following is a brief report that Rebecca wrote to share on the FLIP blog. Thanks Rebecca!

Pacific Northwest Library Association Conference report
Rebecca Moorman, August 24, 2015

From August 5-7, 2015, I attended the Pacific Northwest Library Association (PNLA) conference in Vancouver, Washington. This conference draws librarians from five northwestern states and two Canadian provinces for three days of conference programming, invited speakers, and networking opportunities.

Keynote speaker Josh Hanagarne, author of the memoir The World’s Strongest Librarian, was a fascinating and engaging speaker. He described the challenges of living with Tourette Syndrome, and told heartwarming and funny stories about his mother’s love for libraries and her insistence on only researching his condition at the library. It was librarians who pleaded with his mother to take him to a doctor, which she eventually did. He learned to control his tics through weightlifting, and his competition in strongman contests supplies the title to his book, since he became a librarian himself.

One session I attended described the 75-year history of PNLA Quarterly (PQ), a peer reviewed journal published by the organization. In recent years the journal has shifted to an online, open access format. PQ’s editors discussed the process and benefits of open access publishing, and encouraged conference attendees to contribute to the journal or serve as peer reviewers.

Another session I attended was led by two Reed College librarians, describing their Service Design project. Service Design is a user-centered methodology that originated in the industrial design industry, which can be used to analyze any service delivery. The presenters worked from the premise that everything we do in a library is a service. They engaged staff and users in the project, set up a student advisory group, and gathered data to assess and improve the whole library experience for their patrons. Their paper describing the project is available in Weave, an open-access, peer-reviewed journal for Library User Experience professionals, here: http://dx.doi.org/10.3998/weave.12535642.0001.201

In addition, I attended a session on leadership opportunities for librarians. The presenter made a distinction between leadership training (which is finite, defines what a leader is) and leadership development (which is an ongoing, personalized, continuous process), and suggested ideas for both. She offered numerous suggestions for gaining leadership experience by volunteering for community organizations that mesh with your extra-curricular interests. Additionally, she recommended formal leadership trainings, such as PNLA Leads and the ALA Emerging Leaders program.

My contribution to this conference was a poster presentation describing the Alaska Joint Library Catalog project, and its three catalog mergers in three years. In keeping with the conference theme Pushing the Boundaries, I titled the poster Merging Catalogs in Alaska: Navigating Shifting Boundaries. Using data and graphics, I described our ongoing effort to combine library catalogs in South Central and Southeast Alaska. The Joint Library Catalog, a network of 72 public, academic, special, and K-12 libraries that serves 65 percent of Alaska’s population, has conducted three catalog mergers in three years. As new libraries join the consortium, they face changes to OPAC design, lending procedures, and cataloging standards. Their patrons gain access to over 1.7 million titles (4.1 million items) located across the state, available to hold and send, plus reciprocal borrowing privileges.

Attendance at PNLA is a unique experience. The conference is small (under 200 attendees), and the binational character of the conference is different than any other I have attended. I had the opportunity to meet with and learn from librarians representing similar institutions in other remote western locations, and I strengthened ties with my cohort from the 2013 PNLA Leadership Institute. There is no substitute for these face-to-face interactions.